It may seem obvious, but the real joy in having furniture custom made is getting exactly what you want, even if that thing has never existed in the world previously. Actually…especially if that thing has never existed!
So when a customer came to us with an idea for a variation on the traditional “farmhouse table,” we were excited to collaborate and bring her ideas into reality. Even better was the opportunity to build the table as part of a set that would also include a long seating/storage bench. And all made from ash, one of personal favorite species thanks to it’s blonde color and the olive oil fragrance that fills the air when you mill it. (Seriously. That’s how it smells when cut. What a great wood for a table!)
We started from a sketch and some online photo inspiration as we honed in on the basic structure of the table, then moved on to working out curvature and details of the legs. It took quite a few drafts and 3D CAD renderings, but through our collaboration with the customer we got to something that worked structurally and aesthetically. Plus, the design was in a vein we don’t usually explore. It’s always exciting when the real seed of inspiration comes from the people who will ultimately enjoy our work.
Relative to the table, the bench was a little more straightforward design-wise. It’s an inch taller than standard chair height (19″ vs 18″) to accommodate younger members of the family and it features a ton of storage beneath a pair of hinged lids that are fitted with Sugatsune soft-close lid stays to keep fingers and heads safe.
So, here’s how it all came together!
Like almost all of our projects, the wood was purchased rough, then milled and dimensioned in-house. With a project like this, doing our own milling lets us do things like make a nearly 7/8″ thick bench top instead of the standard 3/4″ and make bench legs as heavy as the rough stock allows. We also opted to use ash veneered plywood from fantastic local supplier Boards and Beams for construction of the basic bench carcases. This gives the core of the bench strength and stability, while still keeping everything perfectly matched species-wise.
Solid ash legs and edges were fitted around the carcases, while panel trim was actually milled up from scratch to match some existing design ideas and enable us to use the same wood species for every single detail, even when ash molding isn’t readily available from suppliers.
To keep everything flush and neat, the bench tops are left long and trimmed after being fit with hardware so that everything lines up nicely in the end. Once everything was fit, the entire edge was routed in a single pass with a large roundover for seating comfort.
In any home, the family table is going to form the center of a relaxed and comfortable gathering spot. As such, we hope it sees many, many years of use. In order to allow table and bench to age gracefully, the customer opted to have us “distress” the wood before delivery. No easy task with a wood as strong and dense as ash! But, we were happy to oblige and the pieces will now arrive looking “well-loved” upon installation.
With the table and bench destined to for a house on the shore, a whitewash look was the preferred finish choice. Below are some variations on that theme that we prepared to aid in deciding the final color. Finishes pictured below range from darker oil stains to white pigmented liming wax, with a few shades in between. We even offer a natural aging solution that gives open-pored wood like ash a “driftwood” look that results from a chemical reaction with an iron/vinegar solution we make ourselves. (That one is second from the bottom right. Isn’t chemistry cool?!)
After all distressing, the bench was finished with a white, oil-based stain and top coated with a several coats of rub-on satin varnish before receiving a final buffing with white-pigmented liming wax and standard furniture paste wax. Here’s to hoping it provides seating (and storage) for its family for years to come!
Check back soon for Part II: The Table!